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Sartre is among the most protean and prolific philosophers of the 20th c. He sustained many radical transformations in his thinking with each one requiring, according to him, a complete overhaul of the foundations of his thought from the ground up. For instance I can remember reading a claim that he had completely reshaped his personality three times throughout his life, perhaps an arbitrary number or a factoid that has evolved in my diffident memory.

Where in his oeuvre does he specifically discuss or describe these overhauls?

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    Nowhere. I find it difficult to believe that he had said such a thing. Perhaps some scholars might have found it convenient to outline 3 periods but that still looks artificial to me. I would suggest to rephrase the question – sand1 May 10 '18 at 16:13
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    Here is an interview: nybooks.com/articles/1970/03/26/an-interview-with-sartre Unfortunately it is not complete, the rest is paid content. This is one example. The fact he may have changed does not bother me; isn't this the prerogative of an existentialist? Perhaps it was a process of refining his thought. However, words such as ..radical.., and ...from the ground up... sound too strong to me. He was always "anti-bourgeois", that never changed. – Gordon May 10 '18 at 17:53
  • @gordon Thanks that's a good find and worth the $5 asking price. – DJohnson May 10 '18 at 18:08
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    Objectively, Sartre's philosophy never changed fundamentally. Subjectively, Sartre was (after 1940) any time ready to change it: it is because his system explicitly encourages betrayal, such as betrayal of oneself - flight from oneself old, modification of own Ego. He said and wrote this many times. He also revealed in "The Words" that he has disciplined himself to think systematically "against my own thought". – ttnphns May 11 '18 at 8:22
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    (cont.) He also noted that he preferred every time to write down an idea from scratch without looking into his past records for that idea, and if later he happened to compare the old and the new versions he got impressed how much the thought, even the wording, occured to be similar. That demonstrates that, objectively, he was quite constant throughout time. – ttnphns May 11 '18 at 8:22
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Here is a link to a magazine interview which may give some insight into his views on a changed position. Full quote removed. [Approx 35th q&a] JPS, answer: "In some ways-- perhaps...

Playboy Interview, 1965. http://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2017/11/08/jean-paul-sartre-playboy-interview-1965/

In other words, he wishes to pay honor to his past commitments. To the person and truth he was when he made them. But he does not feel bound by them.

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    There is a suggestive moment in the interview where Sartre says, "'Original choice' is the term I use to describe what happens at the moment — a protracted moment, covering a certain span of time — in which one makes something of oneself, of that self which so far has been made by others. We start by being made by others, and then we remake ourselves, starting out from what others have made of us. But at the moment when we remake ourselves, a dialectic comes into play: We find ourselves very different from what we expected and what others expected of us.” – DJohnson May 11 '18 at 14:57
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    Thanks! With Sartre I am always learning. So I have benefited from ttnphns and sand1, who are very knowledgeable on the subject of Sartre, as I know from their past posts and comments. Another interesting subject of study is the subject of the French (really Parisian) public intellectual in general. The techniques and methods of these individuals. It's a rough world! They know how to keep the ball in play. To create a certain amount of drama. And this has a long history. So a provacative interview, at the right time, can create this continuing interest. – Gordon May 11 '18 at 17:27
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Sartre published his first works when he was over 30 and lived through turbulent times 40 more years. Of course his view changed but he was neither 'protean' nor 'sustained many radical transformations'. At the 1911 Philosophical World Congress Bergson had stated for every philosopher there is just one central and simple thing "which he cannot express without immediately feeling that he should correct this formulation" - and this is fits rather well Sartre. (Bergson also said this is the cause philosophers never stop talking.)

Three major books Being and Nothingness (1943), Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960), * L'idiot de la famille* (1971) mark his trajectory from phenomenology through leftist-marxist ideology to existential psychoanalysis but the three are parts of unfinished projects. The last work, on Flaubert, is seen to be in continuity with the earlier Baudleire (1947), Saint Genet (1952) and the Freud scenario of 1960 (posthumous).

The major overhaul in Sartre's thinking occurred when heard about phenomenology from Aron, who had been in Berlin in 1931-3, when he had not published any thing counting as 'oeuvre'. Otherwise Sartre just drifted to the left but became disillusioned; neither Marxism nor psychoanalysis caused any radical mutations in his philosophy. Interviews are hardly part of Sartre's ouevre except perhaps his staged conversation with Simone de Beauvoir (Ceremonie des adieux). To her Sartre declares that he expects his literary works to remain as true achievements while his philosophy is bound to be superseded

So, this a non-answer: there are no overhauls (in plural) nor they are "discussed" in his "ouevre".

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My query was based on something read years ago and, the vagaries of memory being what they are, I am likely guilty of having conflated something someone said about Sartre as opposed to remembering something articulated by Sartre himself. Given that, it's probably not a surprise that no one has found a smoking gun, an article where Sartre describes his life's typology. Moreover and to Sand1's excellent point, my use of the words complete overhaul of the foundations of his thought from the group up almost certainly overstated the case.

As the Playboy interviewer (linked by Gordon) lurches from question to question, there is a suggestive moment where Sartre says, "'Original choice' is the term I use to describe what happens at the moment — a protracted moment, covering a certain span of time — in which one makes something of oneself, of that self which so far has been made by others. We start by being made by others, and then we remake ourselves, starting out from what others have made of us. But at the moment when we remake ourselves, a dialectic comes into play: We find ourselves very different from what we expected and what others expected of us.”

Extrapolating from that comment, from the interesting comments and answers posted to this thread, the excellent links to both the Playboy and NYRB interviews as well as a wiki article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Paul_Sartre), one can glean a proto-typology which form reasonably unambiguous periods in his life, thought and work...experiences and moments in his life which were transformative and in all likelihood resulted in such a remake. But is that 2, 3, 4 or more periods?

Fabricating a very rough chronology then, there are Sartre's earliest, self-described aspirations to be a novelist and professor of literature. In the 20s he read Henri Bergman, met Raymond Aron, attended lectures by the neo-Hegelian Alexandre Kojeve, etc. -- all of which were drivers of his evolution into becoming a phenomenologist philosopher. At the end of that decade he met Simone de Beauvoir, his intellectual equal, a woman who became his lover as well as a profound influence on his life. Throughout the 30s he taught at various lycees and published several books. These pre-WWII decades appear to be ones with a slow evolutionary drift from phenomenology into existentialism and Marxism since (as Sand1 notes) by 1943 he had published Being and Nothingness -- a foundational existential tract.

Sartre describes WWII as having had a profound transformative influence on him: as a French soldier, a German POW and, after his release, an activist partisan living in Paris experiencing revulsion at being asked street directions by the always polite occupation soldiers.

His post-WWII life was one of intellectual activism as an existentialist, Marxist and contrarian -- the years in which he wrote his greatest works.

Finally, only the wiki article describes him in his last years as a disillusioned anarchist.

Given all of that it seems to me that one can make the claim that Sartre's philosoph(ies) evolved significantly over the course of his life. Choosing to regard Sartre's life from childhood through to 1939 as a single period in which he wrote and taught is one possible partition. WWII and the publication of Being and Nothingness constituted a radical rupture from what came before and was, perhaps, another period. The post-war years of intellectual activism could constitute yet another period. But where is the moment, the inflection point, the span of time which partitions his life into the disillusioned anarchist of his last years?

Typologizing may be an inherently human trait but typologizing anything is always problematic, reductionistic and fraught with heterogeneity, i.e., less than pure groupings. Ironically, critiques of periodizations are the stuff on which academic careers can be built. Regardless, typologies are useful heuristics insofar as they lend explanatory structure to otherwise formless streams of human experience, space and time.

Sartre was an important figure and thinker in the 20th c. In his case some periodization of his life is both helpful and insightful. Thanks to all for these useful suggestions.

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    "Sarter's periodization" is much more apparent (and is undoubted) with his interests and occupations (themes, political activities) than with his thought or his personality. Sartre wanted to change, all said. Yet his philosophical system was considerably more consecutive than you might be thinking about it. – ttnphns May 11 '18 at 15:31
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    In an <a href="nybooks.com/articles/1975/08/07/sartre-at-seventy-an-interview/… for his 7oth year</a> Contat reminds Sartre that he had said "If one rereads all my books, one will realize that I have not changed profoundly, and that I have always remained an anarchist”, Sartres replies:"That is very true." – sand1 May 11 '18 at 18:09
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    Some other points: (1) existentialism is Sartre's take on phenomenology: B&N is subtitled "essai d'ontologie phenomenologique". (2) there is distance between what an author does and what he says that he did. (3) the aftermath of may'68 marks the final turn in JPS biography ( major health issues are added to history), – sand1 May 11 '18 at 18:19

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